So Zambia is poised to have the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary general elections under the newly amended constitution. Fantastic. I am excited due to some progressive clauses in there, of note is the dual citizenship. Our friends and relatives in the diaspora will surely have something to giggle about over this one. They have been awaiting this one for ages. Now their kids born elsewhere on the planet can at least also claim Zambia as their home land. What a breath of fresh air them parents must be breathing.
The ceremony came and went. History was made on that 5th Day of January, 2016. Like it or not it was history and history is told by the victors.
Time to move on to the implications of some of the new items that have just become part of the supreme law of the land.
My own take from most of the content, and one which was a big discussion point from many constitution making processes in the past, is the 50%+1 threshold for the presidential candidate to emerge as winner in the presidential race.
For my own sanity, I looked up 50% +1 vote just to be sure what it means, and now I get it: a presidential candidate must get 50% of the votes plus one more vote than the closest contender. Essentially one can have 10 and other 11 and the 11 one wins. This is also called First-Past-The-Post(FPTP). But wait , wasn’t that what we had before? Of course but we now have the advanced version of the same.
Now, lets us first get rid of the confusion that might come up. Some people use terms such as majority vote, highest vote and plurality voting systems. These three all use the First-Past-The-Post voting method with some minor tweaks in the execution of the method. The two-round voting system uses the FPTP voting method in each of the two rounds. Round one determines which two candidates will progress to the second and final round of voting.
Part 1 of this four part series will focus on the 2001 elections. I will guide you through some of my thoughts and you can give me some of yours and we get talking about this very important political change for our country. Our politics have changed for ever with this new clause of 50% +1 vote.
I will examine the performance of the political parties in Zambia today and in the past. I will pick the top 4 in each of the elections that took place during the past 15 years. That information will form the basis for the discussion as to how the 50% +1 would have worked out for each of those years, starting with 2001. By the end of part 4 of my articles, I will give you my opinion on the most likely outcome of the 2016 elections and also give you a chance to do the same. If you are on telegram (whatsapp competitor), we can discuss your thoughts there. The link is 50%+1 telegram discussion.
History – Remember the time
To do this write-up some justice and to make the reader follow my rumblings, I went into the archives of previous presidential elections in Zambia. While doing the searching, I noticed that apart from the 1991 and 1996 presidential elections, all the post multi-party democracy elections have never produced a winner in the first round of voting that would qualify for the absolute majority under a two-round system.
It also means, we have had no way of knowing how differently people would have behaved given a second chance to pick from the top two candidates, until now that is as I show you how. One thing is for sure though, the 1991 elections were the only multiparty elections in this country that had almost zero regional or tribal voting as we would like to call it. If you check the 1991 voting figures, you will be my disciple on this one. I will use 1991 as the baseline vote and accord it Grade 0 Tribal Voting Index (0 being the lowest tribal index and 10 the highest), TVI hence forth. This is my index and its use is based on my perception of the results distribution compared to 1991.
Reverse Action – Donchi Kubeba on Steroids
I will show you in later articles, that the 50% +1 that has now become law is a very cunning way for the PF party to try and beat the UPND at their own regional voting style while enhancing their own hold on areas where they do very well with regional votes, such as Luapula province. Before the UPND supporters reading this try and go for my chin, just hold on a bit and see where I am going and also just check the elections results below. You know the old saying about numbers. What the PF is doing is called reverse action or in our case here reverse tribalism, regionalism or even more boldly put “Donchi Kubeba on steroids”.
Going back to the figures, would the late Mr. Mazoka (MHSRIP) have been the winner had we been given a round two in 2001? Would the late President, Mr. Sata (MHSRIP) have been president earlier than 2011? Would Mr. Hichilema have benefited from a second round in 2015 or would it have awoken the absent voters and given President Lungu a bigger margin? May be, may be not. With the help of these numbers, we can try and see how voters might react, given a second chance of voting, with or without their initial candidate being among the top two.
As they say, we learn from the past. Study the data below carefully. We shall use the same data throughout the series.
These results are rather interesting if you look closely. There is a lot of data to be gleaned from here but for now though I will be focusing the analysis on 2001 election numbers, the front role in the chart above.
Not shown here (to reduce clatter), in 1996, of the 1,325,053 votes cast (please check the ECZ Website), the winner needed 662,000 votes to get absolute majority. Late President, Dr. F.T.J. Chiluba (MHSRIP), polled 913,000 votes. No round two would have been needed. As I indicated earlier, 1991 was the most tribal free election in Zambia and scored a TVI of 0. In 1996, a few politicians came up and thought they could also exercise their right to be elected to the highest office of the land but in my opinion, it was way too soon for Zambians to have developed an appetite high enough to get rid of the MMD. People were not really ready to change after 27 years of waiting for change and may be change just for its sake. So again, we got an election with TVI index of about 2 and still got a more than 50% +1 for President Chiluba.
In the 2001 elections, both Mr. Mwanawasa and Mr. Mazoka were miles away from the votes needed to reach the 50%+1 absolute majority. A round two here would have been very interesting between MMD and UPND. Why do I say so. Well all of a sudden, the TVI index had really picked up to about 5. Look at the chart below. I have run the provincial numbers for you and they were like so, just the top 4 parties again:
The TVI index here is showing us that with the introduction of more presidential candidates from various parts of the country, we started getting into a scenario of votes being distributed based on regional groupings and/or strongholds anchored on traditional relationships with past politics. Are you surprised that FDD under the late General Tembo came second in Eastern and Lusaka provinces? What did those two places have in common at that time apart from a dominant language? What about MMD and UPND in relation to the provinces where they came first and second by merely swapping positions? You will also recall that at this time, late President Mwanawasa was believed to be Bemba and he went along with that. He later had to switch and become Lenje during the 2006 elections. That tells you that my TVI theory might just hold some water after all. We will see when we get to the article about 2008 later on in the series.
Zambians vote by interest and rarely by issues
The Bemba card seemed to have worked somehow for President Mwanawasa in 2001. Just look at the MMD’s performance in Luapula, Northern, Central and Copperbelt provinces. Those were (and some still are) MMD so called strongholds. How possible was it that ZRP under the late Ben Mwila came out second in Luapula province and performed terribly elsewhere apart from Northen province where ZRP came out 4th. How come UPND did not even make 4th position in Eastern, Luapula and Northen provinces? The answer is that despite our burying the heads in the sand, Zambians vote by interest and rarely by issues, unless it is time for a revolution vote such as the 1991 and 2011 elections.
Interest can be tribe, commercial activity, livelihood, etc. There is nothing wrong with that. In my articles from last year, The battle for the Bemba Speaking Electoral college – Part 2, I did mention that Bembas use their interest first when deciding who to vote for and I quote
“…It is well thought out, systematic and strategic for them. For that reason, they will always support a candidate who they think will not disrupt their trading business, rhetoric or not. They like brokering, selling services such as giving directions or indeed anything that does not involve strenuous work. That version is usually their own, one who has the same trader DNA sewn into them.”
From the numbers in the chart above, I think this earlier thought of mine is shown to hold water. Businessmen do the same when voting. Why do stocks sometimes fall when elections are near? Businesses become nervous and hope they get a candidate that will protect their interests. Why can’t a farmer in Monze do the same or a fisherman in Mpulungu? Who is better at handling the farmer’s interest, a fisherman? No way. Would a fisherman trust a farmer to understand their challenges and guard his interest, I don’t think so. Thus we shall keep getting votes that are skewed to people who form some sort of connection with the voter. That is the first instinct of every voter, like it or not. Unfortunately in Zambia, it also means region is an interest we like to keep. The numbers are there to tell us this all the time but we keep thinking and talking otherwise. The 50%+1 will have to deal with this reality.
In any case, the TVI had risen to 5 in 2001, which was really the mid point for the tribal vote. We still had sensible Zambians who cross-voted and made sure everyone got a piece here and there. It would get worse though in subsequent elections as I will show you in later articles. As at 2015 elections, were were almost at TVI 8 and my assumption is that we will get to TVI level 9 this year, but I digress.
Stranded Voter – Pain killer please
In the scenario above and assuming we had the 50%+ 1 rule, would FDDs 13% and UNIP’s 10% voters now in limbo have decided to vote again or stay away? If they did decide to vote in round two, who would they have voted for? Those would have been the votes to fight for by the two top contenders, but its also the time for painkillers for the headaches to befall the stranded voter. You had hoped your candidate wins. Now they are out. What do you do?
To answer this question, take a look at where FDD and UNIP votes mattered most. FDD could have had an impact in deciding who got which votes from Eastern and Lusaka provinces. Lets us face it, between them, UNIP and FDD had 63% of the vote that year in Eastern Province. UPND was not even top 4 there. So one would think that both would give the MMD their votes or just fold their arms. The loser then would be UPND who had almost nothing there in terms of votes. For FDD and UNIP, this was a very regional vote without doubt.
Where else was UNIP significant? Oh, in Northern province they had 13%. Again, the round two contender, in this case UPND was not given any meaningful votes in that province and so the stranded UNIP voters would probably give their vote to the top party in that province, MMD or stay away and still contribute nothing to the UPND’s cause, thus negatively affecting their prospects in round two. FDD is also useful in Lusaka province. They came second with 24% of the votes there. Where would they place their vote? This one is interesting but my guess is that at that time Lusaka was a smaller Eastern province and I think that over 80% of the 23% FDD vote would have gone to the MMD due to the fact that UPND got almost nothing from Eastern province in that election.
In the end a 50%+1 result would have enabled the MMD to still win this election after the second run, largely due to a dose of tribal voting and regional strongholds. The voting patterns would not have changed and both MMD and UPND had received regional votes in round 1. The winner of round two would have relied almost entirely on the stranded voters’ perception as to which candidate best represents their interests, whatever that may be. This result would been as I have predicted despite the fact that we still had not drifted too much into the upper scale of the TVI index.
In the next article as we analyse 2006 and 2008, I will show you how the TVI moved and how some ideas of alliances being contemplated for 2016 elections can be ill-timed or entirely wrong. 2006 was interesting, a new kid on the block arrived and two candidates could not both fit in the same region and tribal grouping. Something had to give…….
By Anthony Musaluke